A valid U.S. passport is required for most international travel by an American citizen. Your passport can be renewed at any time, though the Department of State website suggests renewing it within nine months of the passport expiration date, found on the passport's data page. These travel documents for Americans ages 16 and older are valid for 10 years, while those for younger children can be used for five years. Specific passport renewal requirements vary depending on a variety of factors, including when your passport was issued and your age when you applied for your current passport.
Most passports can be renewed by mail or USPS at any time during the passport's validity period, or within five years after your old passport has expired. If your current passport is in good condition and able to be submitted with your renewal application, issued after your 16th birthday and within the past 15 years, and has your current legal name on it, you may renew by mail. If the name on your previous passport does not match your legal name but you can provide legal name change documentation, you also may renew by mail at any time with the correct passport information.
Passport holders seeking to renew a passport that has been lost, damaged, or a stolen passport must renew in person. If your most recent passport has not been issued within the past 15 years or it was issued before you turned 16, you also must apply in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility. You’ll have to take a new passport photo and turn in a passport renewal application. A passport agency or your local post office will be able to help you with photos and renewal fees. These passports can be renewed at any time, though the process requires requesting a new passport, and all applicants must complete the same documentation for the passport office as first-time passport applicants.
Like other family members with adult passports, children may renew an expired passport at any time, but child’s passports issued before a child's 16th birthday expire within five years and must be renewed in person at a Passport Acceptance Facility by completing a new passport application form. These minor passports have the same application status and passport fees that go through the same passport services.
Considerations for U.S. Passport Renewal
Passport processing times take up to 10 weeks during the busier times of year, notes the U.S. Department of State website. Renew your passport book well in advance of your travel to ensure you receive it before your travel plans. If you wait too long, you’ll have to expedite in order to get your passport fast enough, so try to avoid this unless you have urgent travel plans that require a valid passport. Check with the countries you are traveling to if your passport is nearing its expiration date, as some countries require visitors to hold a passport card that is valid for at least six months. Americans living outside of the United States and Canada may renew their passport at any time by visiting the nearest United States Embassy or Consulate.